“ Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!”
Is it Superman? Well, the pilots and parachutists certainly are!
But Chicago’s Air and Water Show, best seen from North Avenue Beach, 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive, is the largest FREE show of its kind in the United States, via Choose Chicago. On Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20, from10:30am through 3pm each day. You can view it along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the focal point.
Before the weekend…
As Chiff.com suggests, for a sneak preview, the headliners practice their stunts (weather-permitting) over the city on Friday, August 18. The weekend then bring scores of food vendors to the shoreline to hawk everything from nachos to hot dogs for audiences who usually come for the duration of the official show. “If you want to beat the lines,” they suggest, bring plenty of snacks and a bottle of water along.” Also, they say ,don’t forget the camera, binoculars, sunscreen and, if you’re hearing sensitive – EARPLUGS. Those low-flying supersonic stunt planes are LOUD.”
In the Beginning… a budget of $88
According to Wikipedia sources, the Chicago Air & Water Show began in 1959, directed by Al Benedict, a Chicago Park District Supervisor at Lakeshore Park. Held at Chicago Avenue and Lake Michigan, the show was titled the Lakeshore Park Air & Water Show, and was a part of a “Family Day” celebration for children enrolled in the Chicago Park District’s day camp program. The budget was $88, and the show featured a Coast Guard Air Sea Rescue demonstration, water skiers, a water ballet, games and a diving competition.
The following year, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and Golden Knights Parachute Teamperformed to a huge crowd and the event became a Chicago summer tradition. Later on, the U.S. Navy Blue Angelsjoined the show.
Eventually, the show was renamed the Chicago Park District Air & Water Show, expanded to two days, and moved to its current location at North Avenue Beach. The event has been managed by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events since 1994.
The aircraft take off and land at Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, Indiana. All pilots perform stunts over the water in a set area known as a “safety box”. This area extends from the lakefront shoreline out to a section on Lake Michigan where recreational boats and kayakers line up for an alternate vantage point.
A Personal Remembrance…
I was set to go up with the Golden Knights and report back to my newspaper in 2015. However, my flight was cancelled when, tragically, an Army parachutist died from injuries suffered after he collided in midair with a member of the Navy Leap Frogs team during a group maneuver. My heart went out to his family, and my story, of course, focused on the tragedy and its aftermath.
As ABC7 reports, featured military performers for the 2023 Air & Water Show include: US Air Force F-16 Viper Demo Team, US Air Force Heritage Flight Demo Team (P-51 Mustang), US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III Demo Team, US Air Force/Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II (x4), US Air Force/Air National Guard KC-135E Stratotanker, US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet “Rhino” Demo Team, US Navy Legacy Flight Demo Team (A-4B Skyhawk & FG-1D Corsair), US Coast Guard MH-65D Dolphin Search & Rescue Demo. For more information, click here.
Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago